Search by Genre
Sun 14 Jul
Tue 19 Nov - Sat 30 Nov
Wed 24 Jul - Sat 31 Aug
Fri 05 Jul - Sat 06 Jul
Tue 18 Jun - Sat 22 Jun
Thu 20 Jun - Sat 22 Jun
Fri 19 Jul - Sun 21 Jul
Tue 23 Jul
Wed 24 Jul - Fri 26 Jul
Sat 27 Jul
Sat 27 Jul
Wed 10 Jul - Sun 28 Jul
Sat 27 Jul - Sun 28 Jul
Sun 28 Jul
Sat 27 Jul - Sun 28 Jul
Sun 28 Jul - Mon 29 Jul
Thu 18 Jul - Sat 03 Aug
Wed 03 Jul
Wed 04 Sep
Wed 09 Oct
Wed 13 Nov
Wed 11 Dec
Sun 07 Jul
Mon 15 Jul
Fri 26 Jul
Fri 31 Aug 2012
There are five blokes in the room, big blokes. Scary looking big blokes. And the biggest one of all is shouting out orders.
Fortunately the Bouncers experience isn’t a new one, so I know not to worry when the four big fellows start marching towards me, dark glasses on, with more than a hint of menace in their swagger. Nor do I have to feel too concerned when the biggest bloke of all tips a nod and a ‘nah then’ that, if you didn’t know better, might think had a hint of threat behind it.
The biggest man in the room is John Godber, author of over 50 plays (his pat answer is always that he’s lost count) and the other four are the actors playing Bouncers, one of the most successful stage plays in British theatre and voted one of the most important 100 plays of the last century in a poll by the National Theatre.
Godber and his cast are in a room of what used to be a church hall in York, rehearsing for the latest version of Bouncers. It is the latest in a very, very long list of productions of the play – Godber has previously said that there is a production of Bouncers, somewhere in the world, performed pretty much every night.
However, even though this production will go on the end of a long list, there is something different about this one, insists the playwright.
“Well, this is the first time I’ve done it properly,” he says. Godber is a no-nonsense sort.
“This year the play’s 35 years old and this is the first time we’ve had a proper rehearsal period for it, first time there’s been a proper set, it’s like coming at it completely new to me.”
It is also, although Godber is too polite to say so, the first time he’s been given a high profile cast of television faces to help pull in the punters.
The legend of Bouncers began 35 years ago when Godber himself took to a stage at the Edinburgh Fringe, along with another actor, the pair of them making up the full complement of the original Bouncers cast. Opening night was an ignominious start to a play that went on to have such a successful future – the audience of two was halved when the critic from the Scotsman left and then the drunk who made up the other half got up on stage.
Despite a less than successful birth, Bouncers has flourished. When Godber was at Hull Truck Theatre, the venue could stage the play and guarantee not just bums on seats, but a healthy box office. Godber knew the play inside out and needed to keep costs down and so would bring it together as quickly as possible, often with a cast of Yorkshire actors who were pretty familiar with the work.
When Watershed productions decided to finally give Bouncers a big, full scale tour, they decided it needed a full, three week rehearsal period. It meant, when the company asked Godber to direct it for them, he would finally be given the space to stage what might now be considered the definitive version of the show.
“It’s given me more time to look at it. I’ve never had three weeks to work on the show, so I can rewrite bits and shape it and take a look, a proper look, at what the play is doing.
“Some things have changed – the punks have gone, because they just aren’t around any more – but the spine of the piece, the story stays the same, because people still go clubbing, they still meet their partners in these places and the hunt never changes.”
A night out – a fun night out – in a northern town is what Bouncers has always held in store for audiences, but the reason it was elevated to position of national theatre treasure is because underneath the jokes and the sheer fun of the piece is a dark heart. Lucky Eric, one of the four bouncers who prowls like a caged animal on the door of the nightclub represents the anger of the working class man who can see another world but no way for him to enter into it.
The cast who will take on the roles of the four Bouncers – plus the lads and girls on a night out, plus myriad others are all recognisable from their TV work. Ace Bhatti played the evil Dr Yusef Khan in EastEnders, but appearing as Ralph in Bouncers is a long time ambition.
“John doesn’t know about this, but when I saw Bouncers as a teenager, it was one of the pieces of theatre that allowed me permission to say that someone like me could become an actor,” he says.
“My dad was a bus driver and my mum used to pack soap for Boots, so the theatre wasn’t something that was for people like me - until I saw Bouncers. I did a speech from the play to get into drama school, so this is a big deal for me.”
Don Gilet, who played killer Lucas in EastEnders, says: “It’s like in Willy Wonka when Charlie finds a golden ticket. That’s what being cast in the show was like for me. I’ve seen actor friends in it and always wanted to have a go at doing the show. It’s absolutely relentless, but it’s an amazing, well-oiled machine to be in.”
Unlike Bhatti and Gilet, William Ilkley, well-known to Yorkshire audiences for countless TV roles – most recently in Hollyoaks – is used to the Bouncers experience.
“I’ve been in the show over 750 times,” he says. “But I haven’t done it since 2002, so it’s like coming to it fresh for me.”
The final TV name is Ian Reddington, well known as Richard Cole in Coronation Street and Tricky Dicky in EastEnders.
“What you want is a role where you get to show off as an actor – this is it,” he says.
Read the article and watch the video preview on The Yorkshire Post website.